Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home. Your house is on fire; your children all roam.


Grief washes over me in surprising waves,
currents flowing into eddies
in the folds of my brain.

She fidgets in the nursing home;
picking feathers off false birds
needing no tending.
Beautiful colors for a dull room, I think –
scarlet and indigo reminders
of wild and winged things
she once loved and cared for.

Pick, pick, plucking plumage,
yanking out eyes;
destroying, yet somehow not destructive.
She needs something to do with her hands,
I tell my sister.
Tomorrow, let’s get her crochet needle,
a skein of yarn.

She won’t use them, I’m telling you.

I decide to press on anyway.
Sure enough, we bring them
and she is unable to make sense of the gift.
Distracted now by a floating feather
she laughs, beyond amused.
We blow it up and over her head,
again and again just to hear her mirth;
behold dull eyes lit up and dancing.
My sister weaves a chain of yarn,
causing Mom to smile and laugh out loud
at her apparent ineptitude.

These are the last days of her life,
though we don’t quite know it yet.

When we clean out her house,
boxes upon boxes of thread and yarn,
needles and hooks;
fabric and lace and paintings and frames;
ornaments and wreaths and tiny figurines
and every single letter and postcard
I had ever written her.
Every envelope, stamp and business card;
photos and silly little mementos
tucked into drawers and boxes.

I do not know what to make of these memories;
can not take it all home, across the sea.
What does it mean?
How to interpret signs left by this woman
who bore us, then
left us long before her body weakened?
How could she know, now or then,
that at sixty and beyond
we still feel helpless as little children?

With each stitch woven into doilies and dolls,
perhaps she was weaving bits and strands
of a heart so broken by life
it was all she could manage, to let us know
our lives mattered.
Years spent waiting on a better world
beyond this one merely
broke my own.

~ bj

10 thoughts on “FLY AWAY HOME

    1. Thanks so much, Priya. Of course you are just beginning your mothering journey, so I hope you and your mom and daughter have many years together before you have to deal with death in the way it seems to come to me at sixty. Every time I turn around, another is gone from this life. And my friend who is almost eighty – well – most of her friends are gone; certainly her parents, years ago.

      And so I hope you embrace life and joy with all your heart, and savor every moment. It flies by so quickly! Love to you, little Bela and Bartan. Aloha and Namaste.


  1. Bela,

    I don’t have the words to express my emotions upon reading this poem. It is freighted with so much love and sadness and memory. It is beautiful.

    I think of my mother- alive and yet gone. She stares into space, day after day. I visit but she has long since lost any sense of who I am- or anyone else. I find it nearly unbearable but then when I turn to leave, I look back and see her staring away and she seems at peace. And imagining that’s so let’s me navigate this grief.

    Truly a beautiful piece of writing.



    1. Tom, I am touched by your story of you and your mom, heartened by you noticing that she seems at peace. I think some of these elders simply check out of the burdens of the world in a sort of in-between zone. Who knows if we might do the same one day.

      I am humbled by your feedback on my poem. You are a fine example of why I post my work to the internet. I truly appreciate your presence and comments.



  2. The ability to express pain with such beauty is a beautiful gift of yours. The transition you describe is something we all must live through.
    I remember a cousin telling me a strange wish he was given at the birth of his first child many years ago.
    “May you die in the proper order.” Bizarre, until he thought about it and realized that as painful as it is saying goodbye to a parent it is tragic to have to say goodbye to a child.


    1. Ohgodyes. I just supported a friend whose 36 year-old daughter died of cancer. I cannot imaging losing a child.

      That being said, Mom died as she lived, and it was her life to do with what she chose. The only lingering sentiment as her daughter is that I wish she would have embraced this amazing world a bit more and checked out a bit less as she was awaiting ‘that better home in the sky.’ Which went on for decades, really. But you know, we all suffer, and some of that is the same, and some of it is different.

      As for me, I’m a happy camper in the here and now. And that’s worth everything to me – quality of life while I’m living.

      Aloha, Ronnie, and thanks for weighing in. I always appreciate your voice. Thanks for the kind words.


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